The president is wrong to scapegoat the intelligence agency for failing to connect the dots on the Christmas bomber. Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen on why Obama’s early moves tied our hands in the war on terror.
The report released by the White House Thursday into the failure to stop al Qaeda’s attempt to blow up a passenger plane over Detroit found a number of mistakes were made—including the misspelling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s name and the failure to put him on the no-fly list. But the ultimate failure was much larger. According to the New York Times, “The report concluded that the government’s counterterrorism operations had been caught off guard by the sophistication and strength of a Qaeda cell in Yemen, where officials say the plot against the United States originated.”
President Obama laid blame for this failure on the agency he has put under siege since his second day in office: the CIA. “This was not a failure to collect intelligence,” he declared this week, “it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence we had …. That’s not acceptable and I will not tolerate it.” But the President’s chief counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, told a different story, acknowledging that we did not, in fact, have all the intelligence we needed: “We did have the information throughout the course of the summer and fall about … plans to carry out attacks,” Brennan said. “We had snippets of information …. We may have had a partial name. We might have had an indication of a Nigerian. But there was nothing that brought it all together.”
The question is: why did we have nothing that brought all the “snippets” of information together? Because within 48 hours after taking office, President Obama eliminated the only tool that would allow the intelligence community to do so: the CIA program to interrogate senior terrorist leaders. Thanks to Obama, America no longer have the capability to detain and question the only individuals who know how the information fits together—the terrorists themselves.
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